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“what we know that ain’t so”

October 8, 2013

Mother Jones points to some recent research showing that motivated reasoning is so strong that it leads people to fail at doing basic math, when otherwise they are capable of doing so. Pacific Standard has an article describing how people often respond to facts contrary to their beliefs simply by doubling down on their belief:

When conservatives read that the CBO claimed the Bush tax cuts did not increase government revenue, for example, they became more likely to believe that the tax cuts had indeed increased revenue (PDF).

Another measure of this psychological grip is vulnerability to false stories that confirm an individual’s or group’s ideology, even though they would instantly raise suspicion in any non-biased reader. The telling thing about Fox News reporting that Obama was giving his personal money to a Muslim museum to keep it open during the government shutdown is that it likely passed through several hands before going out on air, and that it took so long for anyone inside Fox News to recognize its unlikeliness. I wonder how many of their viewers will hold it as true, even after hearing the retraction?

But don’t despair. There’s not much reason to think that online dating is making this any worse. If Americans are overly invested in political ideologies, one Russian seems to take his views on Kant (see photo) with violent passion.

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